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City wrestles with runoff fees

Under the county's formula, stormwater fees would be reduced for most homeowners

Posted: June 6, 2009 7:51 p.m.
Updated: June 7, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Santa Clarita City Council members will consider creating their own formula for stormwater fees during Tuesday's council meeting.

Final approval for that new formula would come from a homeowner vote during a mail-in election in August.

A continuation of the May 26 stormwater fee public hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

If the majority of homeowners don't submit public protest letters to the City Council prior to the meeting, city staff members are recommending the council change the stormwater-fee calculation and hold a homeowner election Aug. 25 to ratify the new formula.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works changed the formula for calculating stormwater rates in 2006, which the city considered adopting during the May 26 meeting, said Travis Lange, Santa Clarita environment services manager.

The proposed change in stormwater-fee formula presented at the May 26 hearing would have decreased fees for 86 percent - or 46,000 - of the homes in Santa Clarita. It would increase fees for 14 percent of the homes in the city - or 7,735 homes, Lange said.

The stormwater fee is collected to maintain, improve and replace storm-drainage facilities in Santa Clarita, Lange said. The fee also pays for inspection, monitoring of illegal dumping and discharging, he added.

"The new formula takes in land use as a component," he said. Homes surrounded by hardscape, such as asphalt driveways, patios, swimming-pool aprons or other types of impervious hardscape produce more runoff than parcels with open plots of grass, Lange said.

The average home would see a rate reduction from $24 per year to $21.50 per year, Lange added. But for properties larger than an acre, the rates would go up regardless of the land-use component.

The rate increase for large parcels varies between $40 and as much as $400 for a 15-acre parcel.

The range has a lot to do with the size of the parcel, but size is not the only thing that matters when it comes to stormwater.

"Single-family rural was set to increase without plugging in the land-use component into the formula," he said. "But rural single-family parcels have lots of variations."

In some cases, large properties have little to no development, while other properties have driveways and patios that create large amounts of runoff.

To equitably charge homeowners for the amount of stormwater each property produced, the city has devised its own stormwater-fee formula. The city will calculate the actual impervious percentage, or hardscape, for each parcel in the single-family residential-rural land-use category, Lange said.

The city is visually inspecting 900 properties that are more than an acre in size to determine the actual impervious percentage, he said.

The percentage of actual impervious percentage will be plugged into the new formula devised by the city to determine stormwater rates, Lange said.

Before the city can begin applying its new stormwater rates, however, a homeowner election to approve the proposed increase must be held, Lange said.

If the City Council approves the modified formula, the ballot will be mailed to homeowners by July 10 and the ballots are due back to City Hall by Aug. 25.

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